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No to ‘national disaster’ tag for Assam flood

Toll rises to 37, 54 lakh affected

By A Staff Reporter in Guwahati
  • Published 19.07.19, 1:53 AM
  • Updated 19.07.19, 1:53 AM
  • 2 mins read
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A man stays afloat in a flooded area in Hajo in Assam’s Kamrup district. Picture by UB Photos

The death toll in Assam floods rose to 37 on Thursday, the day Union minister of state for Jal Shakti Rattan Lal Kataria told Parliament there was no provision to declare any disaster, including floods, as a national problem or calamity.

“Under the existing scheme of state disaster response fund/national disaster response fund of the ministry of home affairs, there is no such provision to declare any disaster including floods as a national problem/calamity,” the minister said.

Kataria’s statement has come amid demands from various organisations to the Centre to declare flood and erosion as a national calamity. Congress MPs had, on July 15, also protested outside Parliament seeking declaration of the floods as a national problem.

Last month Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal had, at the fifth governing council meeting of the NITI Aayog in Delhi, also sought the planning body’s intervention to include erosion in the list of natural calamities for financial assistance under the National Disaster Response Fund and the SDRF to initiate timely measures to check erosion which has affected a large part of the state along with flood. Kataria was responding to a question by Congress MP Pradyut Bordoloi on whether the Centre was aware that Assam has been demanding that riverbank erosion along with recurring floods be included in the definition of national calamity for the last 10 years.

Kataria said recurrent floods in Assam leads to loss of life, property and creates an ecological imbalance. “Assam flood is a natural calamity attributed to factors like wide variation in rainfall, inadequate carrying capacities of rivers, river bank erosion, silting of river beds, landslides, poor natural drainage, snow melts and glacial lake outbursts,” he added.

Although floodwaters are receding in many areas in the state, 28 districts continue to be affected. The number of affected people also came down to 53.52 lakh on Thursday from 57 lakh on Wednesday. The SDRF, NDRF and local administrations evacuated 12,333 people.

As floodwaters have washed away houses and destroyed cropland, people are taking shelter in relief camps. The number of camp inmates has increased to 2.25 lakh on Thursday from 1.51 lakh on Wednesday. Incidents of erosion were reported from different districts.

Replying to a query by AIUDF chief Badruddin Ajmal, Kataria told Parliament that Assam water resources department has not made any assessment to check soil erosion in the Brahmaputra during the last three years.

Meanwhile, cabinet minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Thursday chaired a video conference with all deputy commissioners on issues related to the floods. He directed them to reach out and provide assistance to all the affected people on a war footing, promising that the state government would provide all necessary financial assistance.

The meeting decided that the deputy commissioners would set up at least five medical and veterinary camps per constituency. Sarma instructed them to ensure adequate food stock, provide baby food, hire boats for rescue, provide tarpaulins and necessary items and distribute cattle feed to the flood-affected people.

A team of Guwahati NDRF’s veterinary doctors and nursing assistant staff organised a mobile veterinary camp at Boglipara village under Lahirighat revenue circle in Morigaon district.